Review: Adventure Time – Sugary Shorts Vol. 2

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Publisher: Kaboom!

Creator: Pendleton WARD

Writers: Roger Langridge, Alex Cox, Noelle Stevenson, Joshua Williamson, Bryce Carlson, Jones Wiedle, & More!

Artists: Frazer Irving, Roger Langridge, Dustin Nguyen, Jason Ho, Alex Cox, Jones Wiedle, Emily Partridge, Noelle Stevenson, & More!

Adventure Time: Sugary Shorts Vol. 2 Mathematical Edition (Hard Cover) -which for the purpose of keeping the word count of this review down will be reduced to Sugary Shorts Vol 2– collects 18 short stories set in Adventure Time’s “Land of Ooo”. These stories were first published in Adventure Time #16-#18; Adventure Time: 2013 Summer Special; Adventure Time: 2013 Spoooktacular; and Adventure Time: 2013 Annual. These short stories are unconnected vignettes that mostly focus on the adventures of Finn & Jake or their various friends and acquaintances; some of the more enjoyable tales are the ones that give us a glimpse of the lives of the side characters. Each story is written and illustrated by a different team of creators. This review will not give a critical breakdown of each story but instead provide an overview of the collected work; occasionally referencing a particular story to emphasise a point.

The tales that collectively form Sugary Shorts Vol 2 range from anywhere between 2 and 8 pages long and due to the ever changing roster of artists and writers all have a fairly unique feel to them. Each writer does a good job of capturing the spirit and voices of the characters in Sugary Shorts Vol 2. No matter who the focus of the story is they, and the other recurring characters featured, maintain the same presence that they do in the TV show. This helps anchor the story being told to the established universe, even if the writer is playing with a new element or a character not previously introduced. Whether this is a result of good editorial oversight or the writers themselves being fans of the show is unclear but this consistency of characters helps these collected shorts feel cohesive.

While the writing of Sugary Shorts Vol 2 maintains a close connection to the original TV show the art styles in this book are not as uniform; as there is no strict editorially mandated “house style” each story has a rather distinct look. With a vast array of talent bringing their skills to the table it is good to see that they have been let off the leash a little and allowed to give their own take on the characters. Due to wide variety of art styles on offer in Sugary Shorts Vol 2 it is difficult to give any generalised sweeping statements of the illustrations. Luckily however despite the artists bringing their own interpretations to the work the art never deviates from the established aesthetic so much that anything becomes unrecognisably different. Thankfully the writers and artists are consistent on the theme of the story at hand. Whether this means that it is more silly and cartoony in funny tales such a “The Lemon Sea” -which focuses on a Lemongrab beach picnic- or more muted and soft as in “Heart” -a tale of hidden friendship-  the art always captures the mood well.

The stories of Sugary Shorts Vol 2 deal with a variety of different topics and themes. This vital to the book as it means that each story is not just a rehash of the last. While there are some more straightforward adventure or quest based tales in Sugary Shorts Vol 2 there are others that deal with more of the more complex and bizarre problems in the Land of Ooo; which is no easy task be in a land inhabited by talking animals and sentient sweets. Most of these stories are chock full of the whimsical humour and strange events that Adventure Time is known for while other draw upon the more surreal and dark elements of the show. While “The Summiteers” is a simple tale of adventure featuring a newly sentient backpack “Secret ‘Stache” is a more surreal tale of a gravedigger searching for his missing moustache.

An issue this creates for Sugary Shorts Vol 2  is that there is an unshakable feeling there is a fluctuating target market for the stories in this book. The TV show is a huge hit with people outwith the intended audience of “boys aged 2-14” and due to this has touched on some pretty heavy themes adult jokes in the past couple of seasons. One reason that it has maintained such popularity throughout viewers of all ages is that it has married these with the same giddy energy and simple humour that made it a huge hit in the first place. The stories in Sugary Shorts Vol 2 sometimes feel like they are aimed at very different audience. While “A, You’re Adventurous” –which takes us through a simple adventure by means of the alphabet- feels very childish the story “Publish or Perish” -about wolves who want academic tenure- is full of jokes and references that fall outside all but the most precocious of children’s understanding. Not all the tales in Sugary Shorts vol 2 suffer from this problem but the difference in themes is quite noticeable at times and can be a little jarring.

Overall this is a minor issue as Sugary Shorts Vol 2 is more likely going to be bought by older fans and for those younger readers who are gifted this (rather fancy hardback) collection there will the joys of returning to read the stories that previously went over their heads and discovering a new elements. Sugary Shorts vol 2 is a great collection of well written, well drawn stories by creators that seem to have a genuine passion for Adventure Time. It is unlikely that readers unfamiliar with the Land of Ooo and its myriad of strange inhabitants will comprehend what is going on most of the time; this is a book aimed squarely at existing fans. Similarly those who cannot get on board with the wacky adventures and crazy concepts that Pendelton Ward has cultivated in his show will not be swayed by this book as it delves deeper into some of the more surreal aspects of Ooo. For established fans however this is a great book to fulfil your Adventure Time needs while waiting for the next episodes to be released.